Opioids and opiates are some of the most powerful drugs known to man. Full-blown addiction can affect a person in as little as two uses. Opium is arguably the oldest drug in the world, and was almost definitely the most widely-used pain reliever at one point in history. Opium was first used in the areas surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. Created and used to treat pain, the drug spread from the Mediterranean on through the rest of the present-day Middle East, including Afghanistan, which today grows most of the world’s supply of opium poppies.

As time went on, and opium began to move around the world, opium dens became popular places to stay, use opium, and enjoy prostitutes. Laudanum, a mixture of opium and alcohol, used as a pain medication, was made available in the 1500s. When the 1800s rolled around, scientists began experimenting more with the historically-popular painkiller, and created the first opiates, painkillers derived directly from opium. Codeine was isolated during this time, and morphine not long after. Heroin was isolated from morphine, making it an opioid, not an opiate.

Morphine was often used in the Civil War, and many soldiers became addicted to it. Heroin was created as a means to treat severe pain, and it, too, was discovered to be addictive. No matter where you go in history, or how sparingly opioids are used, there is one threadbare fact, and that is the inevitable result of addiction to opioids. What opioids do to alter the chemistry of the human body is the reason that they are so easily addictive.

Opioid and synthetic drug use have now reached epidemic proportions in the United States, with other countries also experiencing a rapid rise of opioid overdose deaths. Meth, too, has taken many lives, particularly in the late 90s and early 2000s, but opioids still rule as both the most addictive, and the most widely used addictive substance next to nicotine and alcohol.

Opioids Feel Great

difficulty of overcoming addiction to opioids

This is one of the main reasons that people become addicted to any drug or alcohol, but the fact that opioids are responsible for huge releases of dopamine in the brain is a compelling case for those living with compromising circumstances, or mental illness. This means that, as the drug begins to affect you, there is a powerful sensation of bliss and euphoria; this is your body’s chemical response to the drugs in your system. You feel happy, very happy, and it’s an easy choice to want to remain that way. Unfortunately, opioids are also downers when the high wears off.

It isn’t unusual for symptoms like worsening depression and anxiety, vomiting, chills, and fever to occur when use of the drug ceases. Opioids are, by nature, pain relievers. In the case of both the high, and the pain-relieving properties, opioids represent an ideal medication: a substance that not only treats the pain itself, but actually makes you feel better. Depending on the drug, how it is taken, and the size of a person, an opioid high will generally last anywhere from fifteen to ninety minutes, with longer effects experienced when the drugs are snorted.  

Opioids Do Their Job

Morphine is the original opiate, and powerfully addictive in it’s own right. However, when used properly, morphine can alleviate pain, and make managing pain easier for patients all over. If your doctor prescribes morphine to you, make sure that you follow all of the directions to the letter. Abusing morphine is a guarantee of later addiction.

Morphine is available by prescription only, and today, it is rarely prescribed, largely due to the huge population of people who are dying as a result of opioid addiction. It’s hard enough to find things that actually work, but finding something that works comes with a set of strong consequences, like morphine, puts many people and their doctors in a difficult situation.

The other thing to remember about opioid painkillers is that you will build up a tolerance to them quickly. After your tolerance begins to rise, you will continually need more and more of the drug you’ve been using for it to provide the desired effects. It’s unlikely that, while abusing opioids, you’ll ever have the feeling of your first high, something that many people living with addiction chase every day.

Opioids Affect Your Brain

As stated above, the way that your brain responds to opioids is part of what makes them so addictive. After taking them in, you feel a highly-pleasurable sensation. You may feel sexually aroused, and act on the sexual things you’re feeling and thinking. After using opioids, your brain will dip down – that sudden, huge release of dopamine and endorphins have drained your system, and you’ve got to get back up because the crash is terrible.

Without opioids, things like exercise, good everyday experiences, and good food would release measurable and normal amounts of dopamine in the brain. With opioids, the brain’s reward receptors are overstimulated, and then shut down. When your brain experiences instant happiness, it’s understandable that you’d go back to whatever gave you such sudden and intense pleasure. Opioid addiction can drive people to spend their days focused solely on getting and using them, and heroin is the drug with which this happens most often.

Since many opioid addictions start with prescription medication, we’ve been able to gather enough data over the years for an important finding: a person who abuses prescription drugs is over 40 times more likely to abuse heroin as someone without a history of addiction.

It’s Not Just Mental

The symptoms of opioid withdrawal include restlessness, sweating, nausea, vomiting, and insomnia. Though the symptoms of withdrawal aren’t life-threatening, this doesn’t make the transition to living without opioids any easier. Medical attention is needed if you or someone you know has a tolerance for opioid and opiate substances.

Recently, the number of deaths from fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, have risen – the reason for this is because it offers the same high as heroin or morphine with a fraction of the dosage. As drugs get stronger and stronger, it’s important to support those who are struggling with opioid addiction. The road is difficult, and temptation can be consuming.

Talk to Someone Who’s Been There. Talk to Someone Who Can Help. Arizona Addiction Recovery Center holds the highest accreditation (Joint Commission) and is Arizona’s premier rehab facility since 2007. Call 888-512-1705.

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